There is actually a lot of information out there about what our color choices say about our personalities. Not surprisingly, it’s as subjective as the day is long. “Colors,” said Pablo Picasso, “like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” Also not surprisingly, there isn’t much out there specific to customer buying trends in the motorcycle industry. Perhaps no one really cares. With one large segment of the industry (dirt bikes), the decisions have been made for you: Hondas are red, Yamahas are blue, Kawasaki’s are green, KTMs are orange, BMWs are white…the color of your bike says nothing more than where you need to go for spare parts. It takes about three years for color trends to react to social influences, and perhaps motorcycle buyers just aren’t that into it.
What was it about the color of your motorcycle that clicked with you? Here’s a few pixels extracted from the palate of color psychology that might sound familiar.
Technically, black is not a color; it’s the absence of color. It’s also one of the most popular, um, “paint jobs”, for motorcycles. Especially cruisers.
“Over the years, Suzuki and other manufacturers have tried a myriad of different colors in their cruiser lines, but none have been as successful as an all black unit”, said Wayne Hughes, District Sales Manager for Suzuki Motor of America. Long associated with the macabre and the whole bad-guy thing (Dracula, Darth Vader, Simon Cowell), in a vehicular context, black symbolizes sophistication and luxury. On motorcycles, let’s face it, it’s dead sexy. No, really. Researchers at the University of Kentucky (March, 2011) found that in 36% of crashes involving a driver’s failure to observe a motorcycle and then turning into it’s path involved black motorcycles.
White on the other hand, is the absorption of all light, so it’s the sum of all colors, which is weird, because it seems more like the absence of color altogether. The canvas is white before you paint on it, right? This explains why white is so often associated with concepts of purity (the driven snow, angels, Apple stuff). Heroes wear white hats and ride white horses (but not the white pony), so maybe you chose a white bike because you’re really just an all-around nice person who’s sort of a purist with style. Think Sonny Crocket: the fashionisto detective from Miami Vice, bustin’ white pony smugglers in his white Ferrari Testarossa.
Red evokes strong emotions: “seeing red”, “painting the town red”, or “red-blooded” passion. Sammy Hagar may have said it best when he belted out, “green ain’t mean compared to red”. It’s also inextricably linked to excitement, vis a vis Ferrari’s rosso corsa, or “racing red” (the only legitimate color for any Ferrari, if you ask me). But, you can’t talk about red motorcycles without talking about that other Italian maker of fast, beautiful things: Ducati. Red bikes on the street are pretty much Ducatis until proven otherwise, but yes, it’s popular in any brand. “It’s a color that screams speed,” says Suzuki’s Hughes, and it’s difficult to separate the words “speed” and “Ducati”. In a recent article from Fox Business News (yes, I went there) describing the most popular car colors, red apparently projects action, power, and masculinity. Hmm…I’m on my second red bike. Go figure.
The color green is associated with nature, tranquility, and good luck, but when it comes to motorcycles, green just means Kawasaki. Period. Never mind the sparkly Kelly-green of the Triumph Street Triples and the electric-vomit-green of the early BMW 1000RRs. If you see green on a motorcycle, you’re probably looking at a Kawasaki. While the color green can have a calming effect (i.e., going to the green room before going out on stage), according to Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy to live with. “You blend in with so many other ordinary things”. Unless it’s Kawasaki green, which, by design, blends with absolutely nothing on the planet. It was a stroke of marketing genius when the brand adopted the color back in 1968, developed by the late custom car painter, Molly Sanders, who rightly pointed out that no other brand was using that color. And nobody has since, on or off the road. Not that they couldn’t if they wanted to; colors can be patented.
This is the most commonly listed favorite color among men, as evidenced by the well-known fact (in color-psychology circles, that is) that bluebies can be rigid blokes who stick to what’s familiar and stubbornly do things their way, even if there’s a better way (like mine). That’s blue’s dark side. Conversely, it’s associated with loyalty, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sincerity. Bluebies make true-blue friends. Blue conveys a sense of calm and security, two traits that don’t ordinarily come to mind when thinking about one of the most popular sportbikes ever made: the Suzuki GSXR. Its blue and white livery is its biggest seller.
”How wonderful yellow is”, said Vincent Van Gogh. It invokes warmth and cheer, and on the road, it’s high-visibility is literally, an attention-getter, hence, another Ferrari-favorite: Modena yellow. Personality traits associated with the color yellow are rather cerebral: using one’s mind instead of physical traits to accomplish goals, good at networking and problem-solving, while also arrogant, pretentious, and snobbish. I actually found a reference that said the color yellow resonates with journalists, but I’m not going to tell you where.
The high-energy, high-vis vibe this color gives off make it a favorite for motorcycles, both on and off the road. KTM adopted the color when emerging from bankruptcy in 1994 as a way of establishing brand identity. Good job; every KTM since then has featured this color. According to ColorPsychology.com, people who’s “personality color” is orange are extroverted and sometimes flamboyant risk-takers who aren’t very good housekeepers.
What color is your bike and why did you choose it?